Thursday, May 19, 2005

International Committee of the Red Cross and the Problem of Emblems

"Red crystal" may not roll of the tongue as easily as "red cross" or "red crescent," but there is a movement afoot to replace the current emblems of ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies with a non-religious and less politically charged symbol. (See this picture here for the red diamond/crystal design.) ICRC Legal Director Francois Bugnion wrote this account of the history and the problem a couple of years ago.

What's all the fuss about? For its entire history, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have restricted the symbols of its movement and national societies to be either a red cross or red crescent. Most accounts of the background on the emblems indicate that the origination of the use of the red cross star or red crescent against a white field was not explicitly religious or political. But nonetheless, they have come to be viewed as such. The Jewish star is used as the emblem of Magen David Adom, the emergency assistance organization in Israel that corresponds in almost all respects with other national Red Cross/Red Crescent societies except one: It is not a member of the International Federation. This is because the Federation may not, under the Geneva Conventions, recognize a society that does not adopt either the cross or crescent. Adopting a new, non-religious, symbol would permit those countries -- like Israel -- who do not wish to use the cross or crescent symbols to enter the Federation under the no-religious red crystal. This should be easy. All it requires is amending the Geneva Conventions to replace the cross or crescent with the red crystal, or, alternatively, to approve the red crystal as an available third option.

The American Red Cross has stepped up the pressure on the International Federation to make the change. (It has apparently been withholding part of its dues owed the Federation in protest for the past 5 years.) I agree with the sentiments of a recent editorial in the IHT noting that the ICRC and the Federation would be on stronger ground urging compliance with international humanitarian law by all states, if they were open to membership by all states on equal footing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your information is incorrect. The Red Crescent was added for political and religious reasons.

“Originally only the Red Cross (being the flag of Switzerland reversed) was to be used as a symbol of the Geneva conventions, but Muslim nations (primarily the Ottoman Empire, later Turkey) objected to this, and as a result an additional symbol (the Red Crescent) was to be provided for. Later Persia (now Iran) managed to have a red lion and sun (the lion and sun being the symbol of Persia) added to the list of available symbols; though the symbol no longer being used by Iran has fallen into disuse in favour of the Red Crescent, Iran has in the past reserved the right to take it up again at any time.”

5/24/2005 1:19 PM  
Blogger Coastie said...

The Red Crystal does not replace the Red Cross or the Red Crescent - but is "in addition to".

--American Red Cross (DHSR and Disaster Volunteer)

--Admitted in NY, CA, MI, PA and studied International law under Covey T. Oliver and Ash Roach.

12/08/2005 11:05 AM  

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